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Why Australian Open crowds are becoming more American

A former tennis star and national coach says Australian Open crowds are starting resemble rowdy American audiences.

Crowd behaviour is in the spotlight after a boisterous crowd mocked Ash Barty’s opponent, Aryna Sabalenka, for loud grunting mid-match, prompting a serve from the umpire.

Click PLAY to hear some of the crowd ‘highlights’ that caught the attention of Tony Jones

Nicole Pratt, who contested 18 Australian Opens and is now head of women’s coaching at the AIS, said crowd behaviour was changing.

“The US Open’s rowdy; that’s always traditionally been the grand slam where the crowd is very vocal and loud,” she said.

“I feel like the Australian Open’s getting a bit more towards that.”

But Pratt, a self-described traditionalist, said entertainment such as loud music and roving performers suggested event organisers want more energetic crowds.

“The Australian Open I think is definitely trying to do some innovative things,” she said.

“Whether they’re right? We’ll see.”

On Sabalenka’s grunting, Pratt expects the Belarus teenager to receive a phone call or knock on the door.

“There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be spoken to after this match, because she’s an up-and-coming player and (last night’s match was) probably one of the biggest stages she’s been on,” she said.

“A player does rely on the sound of the ball coming off the racquet.

“Probably more of an issue is when players scream for an extended period of time, because that’s then impeding on your hitting time and hitting space.”

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